It was a fun experiment for me to read aloud The Green Book, by Jill Paton Walsh, to my second graders as a way of introducing them to the genre of science fiction. This little book is full of ideas that spark classroom discussions and that lead to fun writing and art projects.
The language in certain parts of the book was a little bit old for my students, but it didn’t matter because we spent time discussing each section we read. What I loved about reading the book to them was their excitement about the ideas. When I first started reading it to them, they listened as if it was any other book (politely and quietly). But the minute they realized that the people in the book were boarding a space ship, their focus sharpened and there was that collective holding-of-the-breath that I just love when I read a really good book to kids.
In this book, an ecological disaster has made Earth uninhabitable, and people are leaving for different planets to start new lives. When the story begins, Pattie and her family are preparing to leave on one of the last remaining space ships, and they are only allowed to bring a few items with them, including one book each. The space travel takes almost four years before reading their destination, a small, un-named planet where everything is very different from Earth. Pattie, being the youngest of these refugees, is allowed to name their new home, and because of the crystalline nature of everything on this new planet, she names it “SHINE.”
Adjusting to life on this very different planet is difficult for everyone, and the survival of this small group of people depends entirely on whether or not their first crops will grow and be edible. Everyone shares in the work, and when it comes to keeping up their spirits, everyone shares the one book each chose to bring along. Those books and stories become the most important thing on the planet, and people are willing to trade very important items for a good read. While the grown-ups worry and despair, the children explore and adjust, and life takes some very interesting turns on “Shine.”
My students loved the descriptions of how this planet was different from Earth. They also loved the fact that it was the children who really showed the grown-ups how to survive in this foreign environment. The children’s courage, resourcefulness, and optimism led the party through the most difficult of the adjustments. It was the kids that saved the day!
Science Fiction is described as “a literature of ideas.” I love introducing young people to ideas, and this was a great idea book for young emerging readers.
This was my 2nd book read for Carl V’s Sci Fi Experience.